University of South Carolina acquires 180,000+ rare comic book collection

University of South Carolina acquires 180,000+ rare comic book collection
"The Avengers" comic book at The University of South Carolina. (Source: Madeline Cuddihy, WIS10)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Superman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man and Thor are all together at last - but not in the way you think!

The University of South Carolina Libraries has received a gift of more than 180,000 comic books and related materials from lifelong collector Gary Lee Watson, according to their press release. Now known as one of the largest comic book collections in the U.S. the collection includes a variety of materials including: 143,000 unique comic books, 20,000 magazines, 15,000 paperbacks and much more.

Michael Weisenburg, reference and instruction librarian in Rare Books and Special Collections division, said that, “this is literally the collection of a lifetime. Both acquiring it is exciting, but it took Gary his entire life to amass this collection. He wanted to see it go to a good home and we wanted to be that home.”

The collection includes these rare and sought after issues: Marvel Comics Avengers #1, Star Trek #1 and The Brave and the Bold #28, which is the first appearance of the Justice League of America — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter. The collection, according to the press release, “spans the entirety of comics history, Platinum Age (1897-1938), Golden Age (1938-1950), during which superheroes like Superman were born, Silver Age (1956-1970), Bronze Age (1970-1985) and Modern Age (1985 to present).”

The collection will begin to be cataloged and processed for research and classroom purposes at the university, said Weisenburg. “We’re going to focus, in the beginning, on the things we know people are immediately going to be attracted to which is going to be the Silver Age comic books...faculty members, people in the region and hopefully all over the world will come here to study these things.”

The exhibit at the library will be on display starting August 29th and hopefully, will change the narrative on how people study popular culture. “People get excited about them. They are, some could argue, the rare books of the future. We’re a rare books library and we need to think not just about the past but think about the future," Weisenburg said in an interview. "What are people going to want to know about this moment in time 200 - 300 years from now? And one of the genres they’re going to have to look at to understand the 20th and 21st century are comic books.”

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